It’s important to make a good first impression.
According to Visit Phoenix, more than 22 million people visit metropolitan Phoenix each year. That’s a lot of people to impress.
And Jim “Opa” Schoch is on the frontlines giving that first impression-providing smiles, information, tours and other helpful services to those visiting the downtown area.
Schoch is one of 24 Downtown Phoenix Ambassadors donned in bright orange shirts, stationed seven days a week at high-pedestrian venues such as the Convention Center, event venues, office buildings and restaurants. Ambassadors provide directions, help with the closest parking available, offer restaurant recommendations, walk you to your car or destination-anything to make the experience more welcoming.
“I try to be friendly and courteous and happy and be a great person to talk to,” Schoch says. “I like talking to people, being helpful, giving directions and sharing literature on what’s happening downtown.”
Schoch has been an ambassador for almost five years. Upon arriving in Arizona, he started out giving pedal-cab tours in downtown Phoenix and became familiar with the ambassador team. “They sort of talked me into joining the team-in a good way,” he jokes.
Schoch and his wife moved to Phoenix nine years ago from Northwest Ohio. Originally from New York (his dad was born in Germany–hence the name “Opa,” which means grandpa), he spent eight years in real estate and was a pastor for more than 20 years before moving to Arizona. Kids and grandkids have since followed.
Schoch was also one of the founding board members of the Phoenix Downtown Neighborhood Alliance, a group focused on the quality of life and the delivery of services to the neighborhood and advocate on behalf of those who live and work in the area. While no longer on the board, he says he still attends meetings and happy hours.
His favorite part of the job is giving walking tours of downtown and relaying the history to visitors and international guests. One year, Schoch says he kept track of the different countries of people he helped and tallied more than 50 countries within 12 months.
The downtown area has changed dramatically, Schoch says, just in the short time he’s been here. “Nine years ago, there was no absolutely no building going on at all in downtown. Some buildings were empty, and others were left halfway finished. Now, there are a ton of cranes and a lot more movement downtown with a lot of people visiting.”
He’s also noticed an increase in business people from Silicon Valley visiting and relocating, citing cheaper rent. People moving downtown to live is on the uptick as downtown becomes denser with more things to do. “In the past, you might have been downtown for your job or a sporting event,” he says. “Now people are coming to live and go to school and to start a business.”
Schoch, 58, loves the dry climate of Arizona and rides his bike to work each morning. He loves the exercise his job and commute provide, estimating he walks between five to 10 miles each day he’s working. “My record is 16 miles in one day,” he says.
For Schoch, it’s all about the people and interaction. “I’ve always been around people and love the day-to-day interaction,” he says. “It’s exciting for me to share our downtown to guests.”
To reach the ambassadors, call 602.495.1500 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.